The time has finally come for the Waterfords to face the music.
This should be a joyous moment on The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Episode 8, as we and June delight in the Waterfords getting their just desserts.
Unfortunately, the Waterfords’ day in court wasn’t everything June, or we hoped for.
To start with, it was harrowing watching June relive all of the torture and brutality she went through in Gilead.
This poor woman has been through so much over the past few years, and to have to relive all of the horrible events in their entirety, as she testified, must have been retraumatizing.
However, June faced the day like a champ and was cool, calm, and collected as she read her victim impact statement aloud to the International Criminal Court.
As June, Elizabeth Moss delivered a chilling and heartbreaking monologue that essentially acted as a three-minute-long recap of the past four seasons of the series.
It was quite a feat, but June held her head high as she confronted her abusers, something she was fortunate enough to do compared to the other former handmaids in her support group.
It would have been understandable if June broke down or got angry or had any emotional reaction, but, in a way, it was more powerful calmly recounting all the horrific things that happened to her.
I am grateful to be speaking to you today, but mine is just one voice. Countless others will remain unheard, imprisoned by men like Fred Waterford. Women, my friends who lost their lives and can never be heard. It is for those women that I ask the International Criminal Court to confirm the charges against this man and put him on trial. I ask for the maximum possible sentence. I ask for justice.
It was her way of saying “F*ck you” to the Waterfords, that despite all of the trauma and pain and abuse they put June through, they never broke her, and there’s a simple victory in that.
June has PTSD she’s yet to address, but she’s still standing. Gilead tried but failed to break her.
And as impressive as it was to watch June get to say her peace, the script was quickly flipped as watching the lawyer cross-examine June was brutal.
It was reminiscent of the horrors sexual assault victims face when they rapists in court.
The defense attorneys try to blame the victim and twist everything that happened, making it seem like it’s the victim’s fault, somehow, like they asked to be assaulted or somehow wanted it.
It was reprehensible what Dawn did, but it was nothing compared to Fred trying to plead his case in front of the judges.
He has some nerve trying to use the Gilead religion to justify his actions as if hiding behind God will somehow absolve or even legitimize his sins.
It’s not like we expected anything different from Fred, but it’s still astounding that he had the gall to try to spin what happened or throw briefly reuniting June and Hannah as some evidence that he’s not the villain we all know he is.
Fred: God tests us. He tests us with a heavy hand. The sacrifices we all made in Gilead were difficult, but where else on earth is the birthrate rising? Nowhere, only in Gilead because it works. It works. We chose God’s path and have been rewarded for our suffering.
June: Tell me, how was I rewarded for my suffering?
Fred: Your beautiful baby daughter and your other daughter. I let you see her. I arranged for the two of them to meet. A kindness, she left that out.
June: I am done. I am done.
Everything Fred does is self-serving by nature, and any glimpse of kindness he may have shown June a) had ulterior motives and b) doesn’t excuse all of the horrendous acts of brutality he’s committed in the name of Gilead.
So, to me, it’s unfathomable that people would suddenly hail him and Serena as heroes, people unjustly imprisoned for doing God’s work.
It makes no logical sense how people can support the Waterfords, even as all of their atrocities comes to light.
However, we only have to think of some political ideologies in this country and the events of the last few years, and we’re reminded that maybe Gilead isn’t as impossible as we’d like to believe.
It’s crazy to think something like this could happen, but then again, the fictional characters never thought Gilead would be their reality in the early 21st century.
However, court wasn’t the only thing on June’s mind in this installment, as she took it upon herself to force Emily to confront her past.
On paper, June may have had good intentions in wanting Emily to get closure by talking to Aunt Irene like she was getting by testifying against the Waterfords, but it’s obvious that wasn’t June’s only motivation.
June was dissatisfied that more of the other former handmaids in her support group wasn’t as openly hostile and angry as she was and took it upon herself to force them to get angry on her behalf.
Luke: She says she doesn’t want me there tomorrow.
Moira: If she wanted a cheering section, she would have asked us to come.
Luke: I just don’t know how… I don’t know what she wants. She is like a stranger half the time. It’s like we talk about Hannah and in bed…
Moira: Getting over trauma is a bumpy fucking road.
Moira: You have to be patient ‘til June gets where she’s going. You don’t know what she’s been through.
Luke: Maybe that’s the problem.
It wasn’t so much about healing as it was about evoking a similar reaction from the group.
As for the driving force behind June’s actions, it’s hard to say.
Part of it could be that June wanted someone other than Moira to validate what she was feeling, like she wanted the other former handmaids to agree that it was OK for her to be angry and hurt and stew in those feelings for a while.
The other part is that June thrives on chaos and wants others to share in her suffering.
Sometimes it seems like June gets off on causing misfortune for Gilead and its citizens, and she certainly enjoyed herself as she eviscerated Aunt Irene.
But she was even more gleeful like she got some sort of contact high when the other former handmaids joined her in detailing the violence they’d like to inflict on their former commanders’ and commanders’ wives.
Moira tried to deescalate the situation the best she could, but once June gets going, there’s no stopping her.
Whatever the motivation, whether selfish or selfless — though it’s more likely former — on some level, June probably wanted to feel less alone.
Moira: Anger is a valid emotion. It’s necessary, important even to heal, but we can’t live there.
June: Why not?
June: Why does healing have to be the only goal? Why can’t we be as furious as we feel. Don’t we have that right?
There she was, sitting in a support group for former handmaids, and no one except her seemed angry, so she decided to do what she could to make them feel what she was feeling.
And it was that feeling of inclusion that gave June the strength to tell Luke about what happened the last time she saw Hannah.
Since escaping from Gilead, June’s kept Luke at arm’s length, not letting herself be too vulnerable with him.
She’s felt too guilty over what’s happened to their daughter and believes that she, rather than Gilead, is to blame for Hannah’s suffering.
Only after the other handmaids embraced their darker sides that June felt secure enough to tell Luke the truth, like if others could harbor similar thoughts to hers, then maybe her husband wouldn’t hate her for what her darkness put their daughter through.
In the end, it was all about June wanting to less alone, and once she was comforted by that notion, she had the strength to be honest with her husband.
As for whether it’s was right for June to confront Aunt Irene, that’s a little more complicated.
June forced Emily into a situation that the former professor wasn’t ready for, but weirdly, it did help.
Aunt Irene: I’ve done some terrible things, every aunt has. We’re trained to deliver the corrections…
June: You mean the beatings, the torture.
Aunt Irene: The physical punishment was meant to help keep all of you alive, but what I did to you was worse. And I never even touched you.
June: What did you do?
Aunt Irene: I learned she had a lover at her first posting, a martha. They continued the affair after Emily was reassigned to Commander Scott and became Ofglenn, so I informed the eyes.
June: So you’re the reason why they hung that poor woman? And you are the reason why they mutilated Emily?
Emily: What do you want?
Aunt Irene: Since I’ve found out you were here, I haven’t had a moment’s peace. I want you to forgive me.
June: You crossed the border and pretended to just be any other refugee. You lied. You gave yourself a new life, a new name, and you thought you could just leave all of the shit you did behind. Why the fuck do you think you deserve forgiveness?
Aunt Irene: We are all God’s children.
June: Bullshit. You people hide behind God every time it serves you.
Aunt Irene: Please, please, please Emily. Tell me what I can do to make things better.
Emily: Nothing. There’s nothing you can do.
Even though Emily didn’t get the closure Moira intended, Emily still did get closure of a sort.
Knowing Aunt Irene was dead allowed Emily to close the chapter on that part of her life and move forward with her wife and son Canada.
It’s probably not the healthiest thing that Emily hopes she had something to do with Aunt Irene’s death, but there’s no right or wrong way to process everything that happened over in Gilead.
And speaking of Gilead, Aunt Lydia found herself in a bit of hot water south of the border.
It’s interesting to examine how Aunt Lydia is no longer necessary for this newer handmaid crop.
As Commander Lawrence reminded her, most of the younger handmaids have grown up Gilead and have been drinking the Kool-Aid, even if they disagree with it in practice.
So the younger handmaids don’t need much as much
conditioning torturing as Aunt Lydia is used to and flies a bit off the handle when she can no longer get her jollies inflicting as much pain as she’d like.
It’s a new position for Aunt Lydia because while she’s back to being the HBIC, the rules have changed, and Aunt Lydia doesn’t do well with change.
She’s a compelling character to watch because, deep down, she does care for her charges in a weird and twisted way, but the only way she knows how to show that affection that is through “tough love.”
Aunt Lydia: It was Gilead that saved you. Our boys cleaning out Chicago. They saved you from starvation and worse.
Janine: Where’s June? Is she dead?
Aunt Lydia: Your friend is in Canada.
Janine: She is?
Aunt Lydia: That godforsaken place.
Janine: She made it. I always knew she would make it.
Aunt Lydia: I don’t know why you’re so happy. June left you.
Janine: No she didn’t.
Aunt Lydia: Janine, don’t tell me she couldn’t have taken you with her. She’s done it before. Maybe this time you were just too much trouble. It’s difficult to know with that one, so unpredictable, selfish.
Janine: I know what happens here. I know what will keep happening until I die. Just don’t make me a handmaid again, please.
Aunt Lydia: Look what she’s done to you. She corrupts. She destroys everyone. You poor thing. You’ve spent your entire life losing the people you love.
Janine: Aunt Lydia please, just don’t send me back into service. I’d rather die here.
So it’s a good thing Gilead “rescued” Janine from Chicago because otherwise, Aunt Lydia may have found herself fired for her behavior if she didn’t get a new outlet for her so-called passion.
With all the craziness over the past two episodes, I’d almost forgotten about Janine and can’t say if it’s for the better or worse that she survived.
Had Janine died, it would have been sad, but at least she would have been put out of her misery instead of being subjected to the regular abuse, rape, and beating that comes from being a handmaid.
However, she seems a little worse for wear, but with no major injuries, she should be assigned a new posting shortly.
Aunt Lydia certainly has a soft spot for Janine, but it’s doubtful her affection for the handmaid will be enough to stop Aunt Lydia from returning Janine to service.
The country just had 86 children “kidnapped,” To replace all of those adolescents, every able handmaid needs to be put to work.
It’s only a matter of time before Janine ends up at a new commander’s household or a breeding colony, and I’m not looking forward to watching her suffer anymore.
The show finally solved its violence and torture problem when June escaped to Canada, and we should have known we wouldn’t be as lucky as our protagonist.
Luke, I need to tell you something. I need to tell you something about the last time I saw Hannah.
So unless divine intervention strikes, we can safely assume Janine is in for a lot more violence and torture in the foreseeable future.
Maybe we’ll fast-forward through those scenes from now on.
Some stray thoughts:
Why is it that whenever TV characters cut their hair, it always looks professionally done? If I tried to lob off half my hair, I’d look like a complete mess, not as if I stepped out of a beauty salon.
Serena showing up to support Fred at his trial solidifies just how much of a lost cause Mrs. Waterford has become. There’s little chance of redemption now, which is a shame because she’s one of the more complex characters in the series.
What is Mark’s endgame? Is it to see the Waterfords brought to justice, or is there something else at play here? It’s always so hard to tell with this guy, as we never know where his alliances lie.
So what did you think, Handmaid’s Tale Fanatics?
What are your thoughts on June’s testimony?
Why did she force Emily to confront Aunt Irene?
Does Aunt Lydia get a second chance with Janine?
Hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts.
Jessica Lerner is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.